What is a bunion/hammertoe?
A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe- the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint- that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. This pressure forces the big toe to bend toward the others, causing a painful bump on the outside of the foot. A bunion can also occur on the outside of the little toe, which is known as a Tailor’s Bunion.
A hammertoe is a toe that is bent at the first joint of the digit, called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at from the side. This condition is most common on the second-fifth toes, known as the lesser digits. There are two different types of hammertoes, flexible hammertoes that are moveable at the joint and rigid hammertoes that are immobile.
How do I get a bunion/hammertoe?
Bunions and hammertoes are both caused by the way we walk, our inherited foot type, foot injuries, foot deformities, and/or our shoe gear. Both conditions are more common in women because wearing shoes that are too tight or squeeze the toes together is a common cause.
How do you treat a bunion/hammertoe?
Treatment options vary with the type and severity of each bunion or hammertoe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important in avoiding surgery. You should make an appointment to see Dr. Lockwood at the first indication of pain or discomfort because if left untreated, bunions and hammertoes tend to get larger and more painful, making nonsurgical treatment less of an option. The primary goal of treatment is to relieve pressure on the joint and halt the progression of the deformity. Treatments include:
- Padding and Taping- Often this is the first step in a treatment plan. Padding the bunion or hammertoe minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping may change the imbalance around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain.
- Medication- Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the joint deformity.
- Orthotic Devices- Custom inserts made from your arch prescription can offload the painful area and prevent worsening of the deformity.
- Surgical Options- If pain is still present after trying conservative treatments, several surgical options are available to relieve pressure and repair the toe joint. The surgery will remove the bony enlargement, restore the normal alignment of the toe joint, and relieve pain. Recovery takes time, and swelling and some discomfort are common for several weeks following surgery.
Remember, foot pain is not normal! Healthy, pain-free feet are a key to your independence. At the first sign of pain, or any noticeable changes in your feet, seek professional podiatric medical care. Your feet must last a lifetime, and most Americans log an amazing 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach age 50. Regular foot care can make sure your feet are up to the task. With proper detection, intervention, and care, most foot and ankle problems can be lessened or prevented.
If you think you have a bunion, hammertoe or other foot ailment, schedule an appointment with Dr. Lockwood by calling 309-661-9975.